The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the gifts of the 21st Century, also known as the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a term coined by noted German economist and founder of the World Economic Forum, Prof. Klaus Schwab, in the year 2015.
Internet of Things (IoT) is an ecosystem of connected devices and smart machines that can work independently and can be controlled and operated remotely. IoT includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything one can think of. IoT offers the opportunity to be efficient in how things are done and save time, money and money and even emissions in some cases.
This article discusses the concept of IoT, the applications of IoT potential benefits of IoT and the security vulnerabilities associated with the IoT based systems. The article concludes with suggestions to address these security issues of the IoT devices.
IoT refers to” a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines ” and “the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction”. This is made possible by assigning an Unique identifier (UID) (which is a numeric or alphanumeric string associated with a single entity within the system) to each entity within the system.
In the layman language, IoT includes ” everything connected to the internet” which can in a way “talk” to each other. These may include devices like simple sensors, smartphones, wearables etc. When connected with automated systems these devices can be used to collect and analyze information which in turn helps the user to expeditiously and meticulously perform certain tasks or to learn from the process.
The contemporary vision of IoT emerged from a conception of American Computer Scientist Mark Weiser. It is called “ubiquitous computing” which refers to computing made possible at any time and using any device, in the year 1991. The Term “Internet of Things” was however coined by the British technology pioneer Kevin Ashton in the year 1999.
The Implementation of IoT involves:
These are “electronic devices that produces electrical, optical or digital data derived from a physical condition or event”. Data produced from sensors is then “electronically transformed, by another device into information (output) that is useful in decision making by ‘intelligent’ devices or individuals (people)”
These includes the components that transmit the signals collected by the sensors to the cloud (huge interconnected network of powerful servers that performs a variety of services like storage and management of data, run applications or deliver services) through various methods like cellular, satellite, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth etc.
This involves all processes and tools to analyse and extract meaningful insights from the data stored in the cloud that may serve as meaningful inputs to aid decision making
It is the ‘visible component’ of the IoT system that is accessible and controllable by the user. It allows the user to set their preferences for the system. This can be done directly via the device itself or remotely via smartphones, tablets, etc.
Applications of IoT
The realm of applicability of IoT is vast and extensive. Although it is an emerging concept, nevertheless it is gaining slow steady prominence in our daily lives. Some of the applications of IoT includes:
It includes devices for domestic consumer use, such as “home automation”, “wearable technology”, “connected health and appliances with remote monitoring capabilities etc.” Products for example “Amazon Echo”, “Google Home” etc. are examples of the consumer applications of IoT.
IoT can be integrated within the industrial operational systems to enable intelligent machine to machine communication, which in turn would facilitate intelligent automated response by the system with minimal human interventions. This application of IoT is termed as Industrial IoT (IIoT). Industrial IoT based products like Smart grids, Smart meters etc. are slowly gaining prominence in Energy Industries.
IoT finds wide applications in the construction and maintenance of sustainable infrastructures like roads, bridges, railway tracks etc. in rural as well as urban areas. For example, it can be used in scheduling repairs, managing unmanned railway crossings, waste management etc.
When IoT is applied to the defense domain it is referred to as Internet of Military Things (IoMT). It refers to the application of IoT technologies for military purposes like reconnaissance, surveillance etc. Some prominent examples of the military applications of IoT includes Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT) and the Ocean of Things project of the US defence forces.
Benefits of Using IoT
The IoT is a technological revolution that will have a tremendous impact on our lives in the years to come. If used optimally it will reap immense benefits for the business sector which is projected to be the top adopter of IoT based solutions in the coming years. Some of these benefits include:
Keeping a record of consumer data including their behaviors and buying patterns, so as to make customizations and intelligent recommendations of the products in new and innovative ways so as to increase consumer satisfaction.
It will also help in operational effectiveness of the companies as resources spent in manufacturing and advertising can be optimally spent with the aid of intelligent insights on the needs of the consumers via processing of consumer data obtained from various IoT based applications.
Furthermore, it will help creation of an effective centralized system to collect and analyze market data and provide appropriate feedbacks to the back-end processes so as to improve and expedite the Research and Development processes.
Benefits of IoT to Indian Economy
As far as the Indian economy is concerned IoT can provide intelligent and customized solutions to address the different and unique economic needs of India.
In the draft “IoT policy document” published by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, the Government of India have identified some specific areas where IoT based solutions can provide inclusive benefits. Some of them includes:
- a) In development of smart cities where IoTs can be used in areas like lighting, traffic management, parking facilities, waste management, city surveillance, metering etc.
- b) In development of monitoring tools to monitor the quality of tap water in all government owned education institutions and public places, leakage, release of factory wastes in rivers, monitoring water level variations in rivers, dams, reservoirs.
- c) To set up monitoring and control systems of CO2 from factories.
- d) Set up smart waste management systems which will assist in the Swachh Bharat initiative of the Government of India.
- e) To set up precision farming systems, which will use data analysis to customize farming operations and to set up monitoring systems for appropriate interventions in case of unfavorable environmental conditions.
- f) Development of wearable devices for safety of women, child and old age populace in public.
Indian Government Initiatives to Promote IoT
In order to realize the Government of India’s target of building 100 smart cities in India under its Smart City Mission and to transform India into a “digitally empowered society and knowledge economy” through the Digital India Program, developing the infrastructure and providing impetus to the growth of IoT industries is extremely important.
The Government of India’s “IoT policy document” have highlighted a series of initiatives, that the Government of India plans to undertake to bolster and promote the development of IoT industry in India which will enable India to have a share of “5-6%” in the global IoT industry thereby making it a global IoT powerhouse, which includes capacity building for developing IoT industry specific skill sets, research and development in the relevant technological areas , developing IoT products to address the specific needs of the country.
IoT focused incubation centres , known as CoE-IoT (Centre of Excellence for Internet of things) have been launched by Government of India , in Bengaluru and Haryana, in association with NASSCOM , ERNET (as industrial and academic partners respectively)and the respective state governments to support IoT startups in showcasing their innovation in the field of IoT. The government plans to create a total of 5 IoT focused incubation centres across the country through the PPP (Public Private Partnership) mode and a total of 100 crores have been allocated for this initiative.
Concerns Regarding IoT
IoT based devices and applications provide immense benefits to the users not only in terms of its wide range of applications but also in terms of its easy accessibility through portable handheld devices like tablet, smartphones, wearables etc. Thus, it is quite evident that more and more users would switch to IoTs in place of the manually operated electronic devices, in the coming years. The world already has more than 20 billion IoT based devices and it is estimated that by 2022 the worldwide spending on technology related to IoT devices would reach around $ 1.2 trillion. These facts are a cause of concern especially for the users of IoT because along with the huge range of benefits, these IoT based devices comes with its own set of vulnerabilities as well, particularly in terms of the security perspective.
As most of these IoT devices collects and shares a lot of our personal data, during their operation, it poses great risks to the privacy of the users. Hackers can easily access these data through various avenues like Spams, Botnets, Malwares etc. and it is very difficult to stop these kinds of privacy and security breaches by the hackers unless research and development are conducted on a periodic basis and adequate resources are spent in building up a foolproof security infrastructure for preserving the privacy, confidentiality and security of the users of these IoT devices. There have been reports of IoT based devices being used in cyber warfare between the countries, illegal mining of crypto currencies etc. In 2019 alone Cyber security firms like Kaspersky have detected about 105 million attacks on various IoT based devices by the cybercriminals.
Conclusion and Way forward
In the coming few years IoT is set to become a part of our daily lives, like the smartphones, TVs, ACs we have today. Research and Development is currently underway to expedite this process. Technologies like eSIM (embedded sim), LPWA (Low Power Wide Area), LoRA (Long Range Radio), 5G mobile network etc. are coming up to address the huge network bandwidth requirement for intercommunication between so many components of IoT based systems. It is therefore imperative to understand that security vulnerabilities of any kind in any or all components of IoT systems would prove to be disastrous not only for individual consumers, industries but also for the entire nation. Thus, mechanisms for prevention of unauthorized external interference in the working of these systems and minimization of possibility of security breaches needs to be urgently established.
Establishment of these mechanisms are understandably difficult, due to the growing complexity of these devices and systems, but not impossible. A few basic approaches may be taken up to achieve this:
Firstly, stringent legal regulations must be set up to protect privacy and confidentiality of consumer data.
Secondly the companies manufacturing the IoT devices must be made adequately aware of the security vulnerabilities of these devices so that they can integrate adequate security mechanisms into their products during the manufacturing stage itself.
Consumers must also put pressure on these companies to take the security and confidentiality issues seriously also they must demand to their governments not to use back channels and vulnerabilities of these devices to collect their personal information, in the name of surveillance.
Various developed nations of the world have established data privacy laws to protect the confidentiality of the personal information of their citizens.
Indian Government has recently introduced the “Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019” in the Parliament as an attempt to legislate the issue of protection of personal information and data of the citizens of India. The draft of this bill is inspired by the recommendations of Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee. The key provisions of the bill includes mandate on storage of sensitive personal data only in India, providing individuals the power of consent for allowing the data fiduciaries (“entities or individuals who decides the means and purpose of processing personal data”) etc. among many others.